Director Paris Barclay talks with actors Charlie Hunnam (right) and guest star April Grace between scene shots for “Sons of Anarchy.”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Charlie Hunnam watches cast member Tommy Flanagan jokingly take a punch at director Paris Barclay, who takes a defensive stance.(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
“When the war came, the war came hard.”
That’s me, using a Decemberists lyric, to open a “Sons of Anarchy” review.
That’s a side effect of me struggling to form sentences after the final 20 minutes of “Poor Little Lambs.”
At some point, the show will have to explain the rationale behind the murder of a police officer, the explosion at the ice cream shop and the ice cold slaughter of who knows how many women at Diosa, and it will have to take those things and form a cohesive narrative. If past is prologue, I’m right to be concerned that “Sons” will sink in its ocean of plot rather than swim.
But until further notice, the back half of “Poor Little Lambs” will go down as one of the most tense series of scenes that “Sons” has ever put together. I may complain about this show often, but I must confess, there are very few people in television who are better at giving me a heart attack than Kurt Sutter.
From the second the Aryan Brotherhood soldiers open fire on the sheriff’s deputies, “Poor Little Lambs” dives headlong into a torrent of blood and bullets that sets the viewer’s teeth on edge. Somehow, an episode that seemed to crawl out of the gate and involved Venus Van Damme just to pad its run time (more on that later) turned into a breathless adrenaline rush.
Sure, I have no idea who dimed out the Sons to the Lin Triad, or why. Right now, I don’t care. “Sons” is so steeped in gore that I’m often numb to it. “Hands,” the episode way back in Season 4 where Clay brutalizes Gemma, might be the last landmark moment where the series put images of graphic violence to good use, really forcing the viewer to pause and wonder aloud, “Why the hell am I cheering for any of these guys?”
Charming is a haven for irredeemable people, but “Poor Little Lambs” is all about the human cost of the actions committed by the monsters we’ve spent six seasons and change watching. The deputies and the girls at Diosa did not deserve to die, and they did very little to put themselves in position to be gunned down.
Director Guy Ferland chooses his shots wisely, staying tight on Deputy Cane’s corpse while his fellow officer panics, while Sutter paces the murders at Diosa well. You know those women are dead as soon as Lin’s goons enter the building, but you have to sweat the inevitable outcome for 10 or so minutes that feel much longer.
I’ve made my feelings on the Lin-Sons feud known. I considered it a hollow placeholder for the inevitable conflict with Gemma, but that notion was literally shot all to hell after tonight. Some Triad need killing.
The back half of this episode stymied my usual criticisms by sheer force of will, but there’s still plenty here I could have lived without. I do find the Tig-Venus romance interesting (any excuse to get Walton Goggins on my TV screen), but was there a reason to spend nearly 25 minutes of run time revealing the pastor’s proclivities? That felt like it could have been streamlined, and I found myself kind of bored through the opening scenes here.
Juice’s breakdown also felt like retread, and while I normally enjoy Theo Rossi when he’s coming undone, it was hard to find space to care about his plot line this week with all the other insanity going on. We know Juice has no identity without the club, and his scenes just felt like a holding pattern this week.
I’m also hoping the spilling of innocent blood shocks Gemma into realizing that the war that’s about to envelop Charming is almost entirely on her. Jax is sparring with Lin over a crime that mother dearest committed, and seeing Gemma express her guilt in the context of the plot would be much more enjoyable than these conversations with Tara’s ghost that feel somewhat forced.
Those, however, are complaints for another day. I want the next “Sons” episode, right now, and it’s been a very long time since I felt that way.
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